Dan Duquette built the foundation for a winning team in Montreal, then put together the core of the Red Sox team that ended Boston's 86-year title drought in 2004.
A strike robbed Duquette of his chance to see what the 1994 Expos could accomplish. He was let go by the Red Sox in 2002, watching from afar as much of his work paid off in Boston two years later.
• PODCAST: Listen to the full interview
Having restored a winning tradition in Baltimore since taking over as the Orioles' executive VP of baseball operations in late 2011 -- the O's are one of only two teams in the American League not to have a losing season during the past five seasons -- Duquette is looking to help his team take the next step in '17.
MLB.com recently sat down with Duquette in his office at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Fla., to discuss his place in the unique tree of general managers from Amherst College, what it was like for a Massachusetts kid to become the general manager of the Red Sox, what he sees for this year's Orioles and whether his Expos or Buck Showalter's Yankees would have won the 1994 World Series.
:: General manager Q&As ::
MLB.com: You, Neal Huntington and Ben Cherington all played for Bill Thurston at Amherst. What are the odds that three Major League GMs would come from the same college program and play for the same coach?
Duquette: Well, Bill Thurston was there for, what, 45 years? (laughs)
MLB.com: Well, you didn't play together, the three of you.
Duquette: He's a really conservative grader; he doesn't recommend anybody unless they're top-shelf. ... When he called to recommend Neal Huntington to me when I was in Montreal, I knew that he wasn't calling for nothing. He's only going to recommend a guy to you if he is really passionate about baseball and he believes he's going to make a career out of it. Bill calls me up and says, "Hey, Danny, the leading hitter on our team is this kid named Neal Huntington. Neal Huntington is about a .400 lifetime hitter, but he's a first baseman and he's not very tall. I don't think he's a pro prospect. His father is a farmer; he grew up on a farm. He's a very industrious kid and he loves baseball. I'd recommend you give him a shot. I think he'll be a general manager."
MLB.com: Pretty good eye for talent there.
Duquette: I said, "Fair enough." I recommended him to the Expos, and Bill Stoneman brought him on and he went to work for us. Fast-forward a couple years later, I went to Boston and he calls me up again. "Dan, I got this kid, also from New Hampshire. He's a baseball rat, he's got great instincts and he's about the best kid I've had. He probably has the best instincts and I think he'll be the best executive that I've ever recommended." I said, "Who's that, Bill?" He said, "It's Ben Cherington. He's a pitcher on the team. He hurt his shoulder, he has to rehab and he went into coaching with us. He's very passionate about baseball. He knows a lot about baseball, he knows pitching. You should give him a shot." I said, "OK, I'll hire him as an intern. He can come to work." He came to work during the interim, and Ben goes on and wins the World Series for the Red Sox. Pretty good recommendations, right?
MLB.com: The talent you drafted and acquired with Expos during your time as GM in the early 1990s reads like an All-Star team. Do you ever wonder what the 1994 Expos, which you had a huge hand in building, could have accomplished if not for the strike?
Duquette: That was tough on the whole city. We had a terrific player development operation. I think we had the best record in baseball that year, we had the most wins and we also had the lowest payroll. We were at the low end of the payroll, but we were at the high end of the talent scale. The only way you can do that, of course, is have a great player development operation, and that's what the Expos had.
MLB.com: Do you think it might have changed the course of baseball in Montreal if that year had played out?
Duquette: Well, that's possible. The club had to put a lot of those players on sale the next year given the conditions of the strike in order to survive. It would have been interesting to see if the club could have survived in Montreal with a World Series championship. I think the club was 74-40 at the time of the strike, on pace to win, like, 107 games. Buck was with the Yankees that year, and Buck's Yankees were in first place. Of course, Buck thinks the Yankees would have won the pennant and the World Series.
Video: COL@MON: Expos walk off in 10th on Walker's home run
MLB.com: Not surprising.
Duquette: It doesn't matter. I have a ball at home -- a 1994 World Series ball. Of course, that's a collector's item; there was no 1994 World Series. We can speculate and discuss it. I have seen some computer profiles that have run the series Expos-Yankees, and the computers said that the National League team prevailed that year, but it didn't happen.
MLB.com: As a guy that grew up in Massachusetts, what was it like to get the Red Sox's GM job?
Duquette: If you grow up in Massachusetts or you grow up in New England, the Red Sox have this certain stature. It's important to the people of New England. My uncle, Father Don Bosco, who is a parish priest, said it's part of the geographical lore of New England that you follow the Red Sox. He went so far as to say, "I think it's even in the mother's milk there." The affinity for the Red Sox gets passed down from generation to generation. I always followed the Red Sox; they were the team of choice of my grandfathers and grandmothers. We used to go down to my grandmother's for root beer floats and she would be sitting there in front of the TV watching the Red Sox. She'd come out and get us our root beer floats, then go right back in there to watch the Red Sox, so we'd go watch the games with her religiously. That's the way it is in New England; the people in New England follow the Red Sox and the people around the Red Sox. They know what you had for breakfast, for crying out loud. They're so passionate about it. It's just a great area if you want to be a baseball fan.
MLB.com: You stayed out of baseball for nine years before returning with the Orioles. Was there a point during that time when you thought your career as a baseball executive was over for good?
Duquette: No, I thought I would get another opportunity. I stayed active in youth baseball with my sports academy; we had a summer college team in the NACBL and there were a lot of players going from there into pro ball. Helping found the Israel Baseball League, I stayed active in the international recruiting venue, so I thought I would get another opportunity. After my kids got out of high school and went to college, that's when I started looking in earnest for another serious opportunity in baseball. Fortunately, I got a shot with the Orioles; Mr. Angelos gave me an opportunity to work with Buck, and I'm grateful for that.
MLB.com: Even though you left the Red Sox in 2002, you said it was fun to watch them win in 2004. Any mixed emotions as you were watching that, given that you were responsible for bringing in so many players that ultimately helped them break that curse?
Duquette: It would have been nice to be with the team, but it didn't work out that way. I was glad for the players that were the core players on that team, that they got an opportunity to be a part of that group to win the World Series. Almost three-quarters of the contributions of that club came from players that we signed, so the fans recognized that. It was a great thrill to see Pedro [Martinez] and Derek Lowe pitch really good games to clinch the World Series in St. Louis.
Video: WS2004 Gm4: Red Sox complete a four-game Series sweep
MLB.com: After being hired by the Orioles in November 2011, you helped guide the team back to the postseason for the first time since 1997. How satisfying was it to have such immediate results?
Duquette: The Orioles are a great franchise. They had stumbled on some rough times, so I was glad to help them get back into the playoffs. The fans just wanted some hope and we gave them some hope. That was a fun year. We did all the statues for the living Hall of Famers; well, they were all living then. The statues, then we turned the team around at the same time; it was kind of a magical season for the Orioles. We've been able to get to the playoffs three times in the last five years, so we've established a winning tradition with the club. Now we need to follow through and give them a championship tradition.
MLB.com: You expressed no interest in Jose Bautista this offseason, saying, "Jose is a villain in Baltimore and I'm not going to go tell our fans that we're courting Jose Bautista for the Orioles, because they're not going to be happy." How often do you consider something like fan reaction when considering potential acquisitions?
Duquette: (Laughs) Well that was an easy one; our fans just don't like Jose. We play those guys 25 times a year and he's the face of the Blue Jays. He's the villain in the play whenever we play the Blue Jays. I like our guys. Our guys are good. [Mark] Trumbo is like a working-class-type baseball player. If he was going to work every day on a construction site, you would understand that he brings that kind of work ethic every day. That's the kind of player that our fans identify with. We try to get gritty players that work hard every day and give their best effort every day. Our fans seem to like that and respond to it.
MLB.com: Adam Jones has been the face of the Orioles for several years. How important is he to the team both on and off the field?
Video: Duquette discusses Jones' importance to the club
Duquette: Adam has been great. He lives in the community, he's an excellent role model, he's involved in the middle of our lineup, he's involved in the center of our defense and he's a central man in our community. It's been fun working with Adam over the last couple of years. He established a home there, he married a girl from Baltimore and he's had a really good run.
Video: Must C Catch: Jones robs homer, Machado tips his cap
MLB.com: What's it like watching Manny Machado on a daily basis?
Duquette: That, to me, is a great thrill. I don't know that I could give him any higher praise than Brooks Robinson gave him when he said, "I would pay money to see Manny Machado play." I don't know what other compliment I could give Manny that would be higher than that.
Video: PHI@BAL: Machado gets Hernandez with nice throw
MLB.com: Speaking of paying money and Manny, I asked [Nationals general manager] Mike Rizzo this question with regard to Bryce Harper: Manny is going to be a free agent in two years. Do you think about that a lot? So you think about this being a window? Do you think about trying to extend him? When you have a player of that magnitude who is getting closer to free agency, how much does that factor into your head when you're thinking about decisions with the team?
Video: Dan Duquette discusses Manny Machado's greatness
Duquette: Well, Manny is a great player. He's a really gifted player. I enjoy watching him play every day. These are some of the long-term decisions that the franchise has. The franchise will have to contend with Manny's free agency, but I'm not sure we have to do it right now. We certainly have to think about it.
MLB.com: What's your assessment of the state of the American League East?
Video: Dan Duquette discusses competing in the AL East
Duquette: The American League East, that's a tough neighborhood. You've got to be ready to play ball day in and day out in the American League East -- and you need to play a complete game to win that day's game. These other clubs, they have a lot more resources than the Orioles have, but fortunately we've been able to compete very effectively against them for the last five years. We're going to do our best to do the same thing against this year.
Mark Feinsand is an executive reporter for MLB.com.